Dear Door Guy,
I love going to concerts but there's one thing that's always fascinated me, sort of a holy grail of being a constant showgoer and music fan: the backstage. I feel like going back there, hanging out, and getting close with the band would be really special. I know that sounds sort of corny but I want to hang out and party with the people who make the music I love, and I want to see them be real, and I want to get the best view of the show ever. How can I get backstage?
Regular readers of this column will know that I have a whole host of peeves about working the door — you might want to read this column if you need to brush up. It's not that I hate my job, but there's plenty of things to be annoyed about day in and day out and it's easy get a little jaded. But that said, I would take the endless piles of grumpy drunks, zombies, and people complaining about having their ID checked any day of the week, rather than work the "backstage" door. Because people who have never been backstage desperately want to go there, and people who've spent too much time backstage would rather be anywhere else.
As a guy who has worked in this business even longer than I have told me when I was just a wee little door guy, the mythical backstage isn't all cocaine and blow jobs — hell, it's hardly brown M&Ms and Jack White's famous guacamole.
A lot of times, backstage is boring — there's some beer, a bunch of guys hauling gear around, and every once in a while, a wild party that's interesting for about three seconds. Not to burst your bubble, WannaBe, but the partying isn't all that great, the people in the bands aren't very good at making small talk when they're trying to get ready to play, and frankly, backstage is the worst place to actually hear the show.
But people desperately want to go places they've never been before, and unfortunately, every once in a while, I have to be the guy who tells them no. That's pretty much what I do working the door, except backstage, I have to shout at the top of my lungs to be heard, and people have a much harder time taking no for an answer.
There are exactly three good reasons to be backstage: you're in the band, you're a friend of the band, or you're working the show. If none of those things apply, there is very little chance of you going backstage. There is, however, a very, very good chance that you and I are going to have the sort of conversation where at least one of us feels stupider for experiencing it.
Still going to try? Okay. I admire your misplaced persistence. But to be helpful, I'd like to share a quick list of things I've seen over the years that are not going to get you backstage, aren't going to win you any points with me, and are only going to result in your shattered dignity piled on the floor.
I cannot tell you how many times someone has approached me and offered me a good time if I let them backstage. Which, first of all, is goddamned icky. It's not 1972 and you aren't Liv Tyler's mom. Second, it's entirely impractical. My job is gatekeeper. That means I have to keep the gate. How exactly am I going to collect on this promised moment of erotic glory? You aren't going to just have your way with me right there, right? Are we making this arrangement on the honor system, like if I let you backstage today you're going to give me a happy ending on Tuesday? Come on. The whole ridiculous cliché of getting it on to get through is icky, implausible, and insulting to both of us. Have you thought this through at all?
Pretending You Are Working
Look, maybe this works sometimes, at huge outdoor shows where there's so many people that you can just sort of blend in with the crowd until you get clear of watchful eyes. But be real. I know everyone who's working. The people I don't know (the band's crew, for example) have passes that say that they're working. Do I know you? Do you have a pass? What exactly is your job? Are you going to point vaguely at a speaker and mutter something about how you plug those in?
I suppose by writing this column somehow I'm a member of the press. I suppose that if you like to blog about all the rock shows you go to on Tumblr you get to be a member of the press, too. Guess what? You still aren't getting backstage. Don't wave the cheap point-and-shoot digital camera at me and say you're on photo assignment. Half the time, actual real working press and photographers don't get their credentials straight for one reason or another and I have to be the guy who is somehow standing in one spot and also talking to people halfway across the building to figure out who screwed up. The last thing I need to deal with is someone who is claiming to be press when there's not a chance in hell that you are.
Be "Very Important" A.K.A. "Don't You Know Who I Am?"
You know, music scenes would be pretty okay if you got rid of 75 percent of the music and 95 percent of the scenesters. As it is, there are too many people to keep track of, and if you try to act like you're a Very Special Person Who's Entitled to Get Their Way and I have no idea who you are, I'm simply going to tell you no and deal with the social repercussions later. I'm pretty sure I'll still manage to have a job after your band breaks up in a month. It's worked so far.
Okay, this actually happened to a friend of mine once. In the middle of a very hectic, sold-out show, a young woman approached him with a letter in hand and a story in her heart: Apparently, the headlining performer had at a very young age given a child up for adoption. And this young woman was 100 percent sure that she was actually the performer's child. All she wanted to do was get backstage and talk to her mom. Except, of course, this was all a complete and total lie. The girl wasn't adopted, the performer had never had a kid, and outside of a very passing resemblance helped by the dark room and haze of smoke, there was no way these two people were related. I have to score this attempt high points for creativity, but now that I've told the story here, nobody ever gets to try this line of bullshit ever again.
So sorry, WannaBe, I can't help. I get it — you've got a vision in your head, but keep it there. Sure, while you're standing there watching and hearing your favorite act in all its glory, you might think you're missing out — but don't forget to enjoy the show. You honestly have the best spot in the house.
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